Rhinos retain title in exciting final
The first Millton Keynes Softball League season at our new home in Conniburrow ended in a repeat of the 2021 final, with the Roundabout Rhinos pipping the Willow Lakers 19-15.
A superb crowd looked on with friends and family cheering on the teams. Liz Knight was once again guest umpire. A double from Paul Severn started the Lakers off but solid fielding from the Rhinos infield, and a confident catch from Chloe Love kept the Lakers off the scoresheet. A lead off double by James Bradley and then a flurry of singles by Rhinos players in bottom of the first put four on the board, but a nice double play from Jake Clarke shut down the inning.
In the second, Adam Bee rolled back the years with some aggressive base running leading off with a triple and then scoring on a single from Matt Barber for the Lakers' first run of the evening. While in the bottom of the inning Kurt Marthinussen hit a double and Louise Moore a single, but another double play turned by Adam Bee kept the score at just 5-1 after two.
The Lakers then got on the board with four runs; good plate discipline drew two walks which were then converted by a double from Jake Clarke, followed by several singles from the middle of the Lakers batting order to ensure a few more snuck in. But the Rhinos responded with a big inning of seven runs, including a home run from Carl Billson and solid batting throughout their order to go 12-5 clear.
In the fourth, the Lakers hit back with a big home run that scored three by Jake Clarke; sliding dramatically into home just avoiding a tag from an incredible cannon throw from Carl Billson, cue massive celebrations from Jake. The Rhinos managed to limit the damage with a fantastic tag out at three by James Bradley but were only able to score two in response bringing the score to 14-8.
As the game hotted up the noise from the crowd got louder, led by commentators Hedley Bevan and Rachel Hunter, with DJ Debs playing each batters' walk-on song. Highlights included MK Softball's version of 'Beat the Freeze' with the children in the crowd racing one of the league's speedsters, Craig Holmes, wearing a dinosaur mask. We're uncertain of the meaning of the costume but it was a hit with the crowds so will likely become an annual event.
In the fifth, the defence of both teams shone with Lakers unable to score and Rhinos just managing to get Kurt Marthinussen home after he reached the bases on his third hit of the night.
The biggest cheer of the night came in the sixth; some solid batting from the start gave Adam Bee the opportunity to score two with a single and this was then followed up with a huge three-run home run into left field by Matt Barber, which reduced the arrears to 13-15. The speedy Kim Harrison followed with a second swinging bunt of the evening.
But the batting consistency of Steve Lamb (3/4), Leah Holmes (4/4), Carl Billson (3/4) and Chloe Love (3/4) was again the difference as another four runs were added in the bottom of the sixth to give Rhinos pitcher the Matt Evans the opportunity to close out the game 19-15.
Despite a valiant effort in the seventh, the Lakers could only score two so for the second successive season the champagne flowed for the Rhinos and the season was celebrated in the Barn pub, organised by Kat Newman. Leah Holmes and Carl Billson were named MVPs and attention now turns to our annual awards night when we mark our best and most improving players, and celebrate the league's achievements.
Training continues until the end of the month at Conniburrow before the Codebreakers Cup on the 24th September.
Finally a big thank you to all our umpires, coaches and volunteers who have made our first season at our new home such a success!